Jenn Carson

How did your life change when you became a caregiver? Were there aspects of your life (such as school or career or plans for retirement) that you had to alter?

When I realized that taking care of my parents was up to me, I cashed out a retirement fund and savings since I couldn’t work for several years. Looking after my disabled mom and disabled veteran step-dad by myself took a toll on my health. But, having survived severe childhood trauma, I had the resilience and strength to handle the caregiving challenges.

What do you do to maintain your own well-being?

Five years into my caregiver journey, my health had really declined. Besides dealing with complex PTSD, early hearing loss, and arthritis, I was also facing several obesity-related illnesses, sleep apnea, and adenomyosis, a painful uterine condition. I made the tough decision to undergo weight loss surgery and a hysterectomy. Today, I am 140 pounds lighter and much healthier. To stay well, I keep up with all my medical and therapy appointments, exercise regularly, and meal prep. I also utilize respite services to take rest, read, swim, and enjoy musical theatre.

What are your biggest challenges as a caregiver?

While care systems have improved, it was initially hard to be recognized as my step-father’s official caregiver since we aren’t biologically related and are visibly different ethnicities, even though he raised me from the age of nine. Families today look different than they did in the 20th century. I hope to represent non-traditional caregivers and advocate for better acceptance in my role as a Fellow.

Tell us who you are outside of your role as a caregiver. What interests you? Do you go to school, work, or volunteer? Are you an entrepreneur?

I hold a doctoral degree in social work and run a large suicide prevention program at Inland Southern California United Way. I’m also a motivational speaker who has shared my story of surviving childhood trauma and suicidality on platforms like People Magazine, CNN, BBC, and the Today Show. I am driven to serve because I have survived and thrived. I know that help works and hope can be restored. Because of what I’ve been through, I embrace each day with gratitude, laughter, and joy. I love spending time with my friends, family, and cats.

My Story